Thursday, November 18, 2010

Slice of Life: More Southern Thoughts - November 18th 2010: A late posting 8 years later....

I found this in my drafts for Slice of Life/ News From the North. It could be from an email news letter I used to send out many years ago, before News From the North was born. At any rate, enjoy, this brought back many fond memories.

Normally, I lose ridiculously expensive pairs of sunglasses in foreign countries. A set of Raybans and Bolles now call Belize home, while the ultimate Maui Jim's reside in Guadalajara. My latest pair call my Protege 5 home, and that's where they will stay. So I thought my days of being a loser were somewhat over. As if. A Linda Lundstrum top now lives in Guatemala, not sure if it prefers the cosmo of the city or the spring like climate of Santa Maria. The pants still live in the closet at home. And of course, the outfit is no longer on the market. My favourite green umbrella, originally from the sunshine capital of San Diego California where it rained for three days of a four day stay, now prefers the lovely little town of Copan Ruinas, living an active lifestyle on the back shelf of a tuk tuk. My blood pressure cuff calls some suburb of Playa del Carmen in Mexico its casa. And my poor pointy ended Tweezerman tweezers, hastily thrown in the backpack at the beginning of the Mexico mission were ignored by me until they met their fate at the hands of the Cancun airport security guys, unceremoniously dumped in the garbage as they were deemed a threat to the very safety of our American airways. Wait, I'm Canadian. We are friendly and polite. Evidently not when we are carrying weapons of minimal destruction. Naturally, I had to replace all these necessary items. With: a) tanzanite earrings. b) .925 silver earrings with black pearls. c) a white hand embroidered cotton shirt. d) a Lencan (Honduran pottery) necklace. e) a Lencan armadillo (my Mayan birth sign). f) a Lencan coaster with the Mayan symbol for said Armadillo. g) a hand embroidered take on a huipil ().  some hand junk and a watch (I needed the alarm on the watch, that's my excuse).  i) some tequila j) a bunch of margaritas. A fair trade off, don't you think? All obtained at special prices, just for me. To unload pesos, or lempira, depending on the country of purchase. Guatemala saw practical purchases of coffee and another quilt in quetzales. Oops, there's still a quilt in my closet looking for a good home. Well, this one is nicer, after having washed one for my Mom similar to the closet one - my dryer and my Mom were pink for weeks. And actually, the new one has a home, the owners just don't know it yet.
I choose my friends wisely, and wisely met up with Florida Tom in Copan Ruinas. This lovely little Honduran town is one of the front runners of where I want to be when I don't grow up. We stayed at a lovely little boutique hotel, the Yat Balam,which is Mayan for Jaguar Progenitor
or something like that. What a wonderful place. Every night, while I sat in the little courtyard by the cafe with my laptop, the night watchman would come out with a chair so I could rest my netbook on it, thus defeating the purpose of being a laptop. How could I refuse someone trying to look out for me? One of the shopkeeps had a dog who sat at the gate, until I came along. Then he sat by my bench. Until his owner tried to banish him back to the gate. Whereby the dog would cast his eyes down and slink back to my side. Tail wagging. He ended up having to bribe the dog I called "Noodle" - his name in Spanish started with a "C" and sounded like it had an oodle in it somewhere. I digress.

So Florida Tom and I hired a guide - Giovanni - a slight bastardization of his name which I think was Yebeni- to take us to the ruins. This guide is probably one of the best in Honduras for many reasons which I won't get into here, and came highly recommended. We arrived at the ruins early, and as we were waiting for paper work and whatever other things you have to wait  for, a woman approached us whom we recognized as staying at our little hotel. She offered to hire a guide with us and pay half. We looked at each other and invited her to join us, but told her she would have to pay the same rate as we had to Giovanni, which she did. She was quite fine throughout the tour, and joined us for lunch at the cheese shop back in town. Copan has some mighty fine Brown Swiss cows and Brown Swiss cow cheeses. But first, she had to check out of our  hotel. While she was away, Fla. Tom and I decided upon our choices. When Jo (?) came back, she decided on the six ounce hunk of cheese with crackers, followed by another 4 ounces of fruit covered bovine delight for dessert, accompanied by "Let's share. I left my money in the hotel." With a beer chaser. Our lactose infused options were already on the way. I told her I would pay for lunch - food is ridiculously cheap in Copan, and then just watched her order. I did tell her to forgo dessert until after our mains were done. I mean,  she was going to eat six ounces of cheese, and our sandwiches had meat and probably the same amount of cheese in them! Fla. Tom was too much a gentleman to comment, but when I asked him a day or two later if he thought she was a bit off, let's just say we agreed yet again.

Copan Ruinas was host to a Harley meet the Friday before I left. I know, I was laughing too when we were told at the front desk that there was going to be a night for them. Here, in Honduras, in the middle of no where, as a fund raiser for the local Red Cross and the social baby of the owner of one our favourite steak houses in that town. After a morning of tushes tuk tuk -ed up a mountain for some bird viewing, we came back to a giant inflatable beer bottle and a stage in the street. The one man band was playing oldies and newbies, Spanish and English. In the centre square, Harleys were starting to materialize, until there were 5 of them. Our street was cordoned off, you had to pay to get in or out, the Red Cross emblazoned water jugs for this on either side of the ropes. The folks running our hotel were so worried about the noise that was supposed to go until two AM that they supplied the guests with ear plugs, and us with a 26er of Flor de Cana, Nicarauga's finest rum. No valium needed that night. Other than the occasional revving of motors as all men-children are wont to do, and the playing of some oldies music, the night was actually pretty quiet compared to the noisefest I thought it was going to be. The music stopped abruptly at 1 AM, and the now 25 Harleys were silent. I was able to rest well before the 5 hour bus ride back to Guatemala City, after a week of Barena and the best steaks I have eaten anywhere. The rest of the rum, in case you were wondering, went the next day to the night watchman, hopefully consumed while off duty :)

And so the flight to Cancun. Ah yes, via Miami. I know I should give up and quit my whining. Loathe is too soft a word to express how I feel about that airport. But hang on, folks. I have found another airport to loathe as well, and it's name is Dallas-Fort Worth. How can that be, since I didn't have to identify my luggage there? I thought all was going to be well, until I stood in the 2 hour line up of mostly Mexican folks waiting to get through immigration. With three folks working it. The American citizen side had no one waiting, and two folks working, or rather, idling. Eventually, the powers that be asked for anyone with a flight before 1030, which would be me, so I happily went through the US citizen line, and was then directed to baggage pick up. But wait, I'm not supposed to have to pick up my luggage in Dallas. But you still have to hand over the blue card. And so I progressed to another half hour line up, nerves a shaking, as A) no one could confirm the veracity of my no luggage claim, and B) I had very little time before my flight to Toronto left. Along with all the other slugs who had luggage, I handed over my declaration to one of a total of two people working this line up. And then, I progressed (regressed?) into the main terminal to get x-rayed and goosed yet again. With less than a half hour to go, I found out the "other" security line was shorter, so I sprinted there, and afterwards ran to catch my flight. Sidetracked by a bathroom break, I was suitably worried when in the loo I heard my name over the airport loudspeaker to report to D25 immediately. As I completed my run to the gate, I heard my name yet again, "Last Call". That'd be me. And the door shut behind me. Lest you think I didn't leave enough time between flights, I had 2 hours. I'm told you really need to allow between three and four. Now someone tell me why they can get it right in Mexico City, that is, have a whackload of wickets open and the same guy collecting your immigration card as who stamps your passport? And they're actually pleasant and knowledgeable there. I hope Mexicana will be able to fire up her engines next month as is the plan. Otherwise, I think I will be flying to Guate/Mexico next year via El Salvador. Surely it can't be as bad as Miami or Dallas, can it?

Other noteworthy items:

1. We are all God's creatures. Witness the skinny stray dog at one of the mission sites. One of many actually, except she had some heavy duty plastic tied around her middle. The kids were being told to chase her away by throwing stones at her, which I yelled at them not to do. This poor doggie allowed me to free her. She knew where she could be helped. And she disappeared shortly after that.

2. Who's making the bed? I wondered, as my bed in Playa had the flat sheet wrapped around the mattress, and the fitted sheet as the top sheet. Happened every day. I was going to remake the bed on my last day, but forgot. Anyhow, 2AM is a little early to be remembering those kinds of things, especially when awaiting the 0250 arrival of my shuttle to the airport.

3. How to get merchants to leave you alone: I'm a sucker for fundraisers, especially for something like fire equipment. I do not wish for my hotel to burn down. Wouldn't do anything about the roach problem anyway. On Saturday, I donated some cash to a Canuck sitting by a wellington boot raising money for Playa firefighters. In return, I was given one of their t-shirts, which I wore the next day as the only clean item in my suitcase for a walk "the other way". I then gathered that the firefighters actually wear this t-shirt that has "Bombero" written on its back, and a Mexican flag on its sleeve. I was told many times over that I was doing a great job, and I was never told there was a special price and a special seat just for me. Nor was I invited to lighten my pockets. To those who questioned me further I admitted to my real profession and reason for being in Mexico. I didn't find out until I returned home that a nearby resort had suffered an explosion with a loss of Canadian lives as well as local lives. You bet you can help me lighten my pockets.

4. You can fool some of the people some of the time: Dr. Brian came to Guatemala equipped with his whoopee cushions, and garnered many laughs from all, but this year, I think the word has spread as Dr. B. reported folks were actually lifting up the sheets that were hiding his devices on the chairs.

5. My Mom: Gotta love her. The first time I have spoken to her in a month. "Hi, how are you?" "Ready to be buried." Welcome home.

6. My Mom: Part 2. She's threatening to not attend the meet and greet for my Grandson that I am hosting on Saturday. To which I replied: "You're going no matter what." "Even if it kills me?" "So what if it does??" She wasn't pleased. And she's coming.

And that is how it all went.

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